Overfishing Battle Strikes Home



The other night as my husband and I sat down at the counter of our favorite Laguna Beach sushi bar, I was shocked to see bluefin tuna written on the dry-erase specials board.

It’s pretty common knowledge that the bluefin’s populations are in serious decline worldwide.  In recent years it has become the “poster child of overfishing,” as noted in an article in Time Magazine in 2010, which estimated that the bluefin’s numbers dropped at least 80 percent from its peak take in years past, though others say its closer to 90 percent.  They can weigh over 1,000 pounds and are among a group of large predatory fish like shark and swordfish – most of which are facing the same plight as the bluefin – that are considered an integral part of the ecosystem.  Like the lions and tigers of the jungle, when they are gone, the system is thrown out of whack.

That I would find this majestic, but overly-hunted fish featured in my sushi bar and in Laguna Beach, no less, where the people are arguably more informed about such issues, was extremely disturbing to say the least.

Because when it comes down to it, the group that is most accountable for the demise of the bluefin tuna are the seafood lovers.  In other words, it’s us. We are the ones that have an appetite for this meat and demand to have it.

We are also the ones that should be aware that there is a problem with overfishing, and pollution and destruction in our oceans, but we push it from our minds.  After all, the sunset views in Laguna are magnificent, and they make us believe that everything is wonderful.  But it isn’t.  The fact is, our oceans are in trouble.

There are other fish in the sea to eat besides bluefin tuna.  There are tasty and sustainable seafoods that are not overfished and that are harvested with responsible methods that have been certified as such by organizations as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

This is the seafood we should be demanding and we need to give the ones in trouble a break. It’s up to us to do something about the state of the oceans, but we have to speak out.  We, the consumer, have a very loud voice.


Lisa Padgalskas, Laguna Beach

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  1. Swordfish are an example of how highly migratory species can rebound with international management mechanisms and responsible fishery management. Their numbers are higher than ever. They shouldn’t be lumped in with sharks and bluefin – it’s simply not accurate. But the writer is right about bluefin tuna.

  2. Actually, according to the recent book by Oceana, the leading international ocean conservation group, “Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them,” swordfish, like other very large predatory fish are 90 depleted from what stocks used to be from it’s high catch 30 or so years ago. Whereas the average weight of the swordfish catch was once over 300 lbs, it’s now 90 lbs. Because swordfish is at the top of the food chain, Oceana recommends avoiding eating them. It would be like eating the top predators of the forest. If they become severely depleted, the ecosystem falls out of balance. A very real and serious concern.

    The Seafood Watch put out by Monterrey Bay Aquarium recommends avoiding any swordfish caught internationally (outside the US and Canada and the N Atlantic and E Pacific). This is because internationally the swordfish fisheries are not well managed. Longlines are the most common gear used and it results in great amounts of by-catch of seabirds, turtles and sharks. So if you really want to eat swordfish, make sure you know where it came and how it was caught… something very difficult to reliably know.


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